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The Five Hole: Something Gained, Something Lost

Fresh from today's Game Time paper comes our very own Franchise's Goalie and his column, The Five Hole.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

What do you lose when you win?

That question has troubled me since October 27, 2006, when the Cardinals won the World Series. For the previous 10 years, I yearned for it to happen. I dreamed about it at night then daydreamed about it the next day. Day after day after day.

The 2004 Cardinals were swept by Boston in the World Series. For me, that magical 2004 season ended with a tear-drenched phone call to my dad. He said the only thing that kept his own tears unshed was his fatherly duty to cheer up his son. The 2005 season ended in tears as well; the Houston Astros won the last game ever at my beloved Busch Stadium. In fact, every baseball season from 1996-2005 ended in tears.

Of course, 2006 ended in joy, not sorrow. But ever since, baseball has not been the same. My boundless passion, my burning desire to see the Cardinals win the World Series is gone. I still root for them, but now that I’ve been atop the mountain, the desperation to experience that summit is gone. When the 2007-2010 seasons ended in losses, there were no tears. Only momentary melancholy.

The Cardinals won the World Series again in 2011. I was in attendance that night. I proffered smiles and high-fives. But the elation of 2006 was nowhere to be found.

What do you lose when you win?

I wonder how and if Yankee fans can be passionate. They’ve seen their team win five championships since 1996. Is a World Series special for them anymore, or has it become merely routine? Wake up, brush your teeth, celebrate a World Series. How can they burn for it with even a fraction of the fervor I did until 2006? How can they clench their fists and bite their nails and live and die with every pitch the way Cubs fans do? The answer is they can’t and they don’t. Anyone who says otherwise is delusional.

The clenching and the biting, the living and the dying are what make sports fandom fun and terrifying and human. They separate the diehards from the casuals, the needers from the wanters. Once that need is satisfied, once your team has won it all, the clenching and biting disappear.

Just because the cliché has been rendered ad nauseam doesn’t render it untrue: the journey is greater than the destination. The more effort poured into reaching the destination, the more satisfying the reward. October 27, 2006 was euphoria because I had dreamed and daydreamed about it for so long and endured so many tears in its pursuit. But imagine how much more intense it would have been if the first Cardinal World Series of my life had come at age 50 instead of age 15. If another 35 consecutive baseball seasons had ended in tears and then it happened.

The unrivaled emotion of that moment is why my Blues fandom is so precious to me. That at-long-last relief and rapture rolled into one remains on the horizon for Blues fans. The Blues have never won the Stanley Cup. Not in my lifetime, not in my father’s lifetime, not in anyone’s lifetime.

They might next year; they might never.

If the Blues never win the Stanley Cup, that we fans struggled for it, season after season, heartbreak after heartbreak, will be a victory in itself.

Or, they might struggle and fail for the next 34 years. But then, in that 35th year, what if the planets align in just such a way that our hearts remain whole? What if, at long last, the Blues go marchin’ into the Stanley Cup Final and hoist the Holy Grail? I could withstand hours of boardroom or classroom boredom imagining That Moment. There could never be another That Moment. Language lacks the power and the clarity to describe That Moment.

What do you lose when you win?

The Chicago NHL team has won the Stanley Cup twice recently. Blues fans scoff at their boasting.
They had their Moment in 2010 (even if it was pretty much ruined because no one knew the puck went in. Eventually they had it, tainted and delayed though it was.) They had That Moment of desperation redeemed. They had That Moment of passion rewarded. But That Moment has faded into the sands of time. The vividness of That Moment has been robbed by its relegation from dream to memory. If a highlight DVD is played enough, the lasers on the disk will wear out and give out. Memories lose sharpness with each retelling.

But dreams gain definition with each imagination.

2013 for Chicago was but a lockout-shortened shred of 2010, and any subsequent success will be but a shred of that. So let them boast, but don't let it get to you. They'll tell you otherwise, but any postseason success (God forbid another Cup) they earn from now on is hollow. It's trite and rote. It's been there, done that, ho hum. It's a drunken one-night stand with someone whose name will soon be forgotten.
Those fans had That Moment of true, deep, consummated love in 2010 (if they had jumped on the bandwagon by then). But their candle has flickered and died. Our candle, our Moment, is still to come. It lives fondly in our dreams and daydreams. It's still ours to anticipate, to craft, to tailor to our liking.

In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald contemplates what The New World must have evoked in those who first laid eyes on it: "For a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder."

For Blues fans, the Stanley Cup is our New World. Our capacity for wonder is infinite. What is That Moment like? When and how will it evolve?

Their Moment no longer belongs to them; it belongs to Father Time. Our Stanley Cup Moment still belongs to us.